The Devils came into their game tonight with the Flyers having not won back-to-back games since last February. That trend continued, but not without a fight. The Devils earned a point in an overtime loss to Philadelphia in Newark on Friday, losing in overtime for the first time this season.
The Devils dads were back, as they were invited to see the second half of the back-to-back, and they saw a good one. The game was physical, with good battles along the boards, something you would expect from Devils versus Flyers. It was also Firefighter Appreciation Night at the Prudential Center, as the Devils honored local New Jersey firefighters.
Cory Schneider was back in goal for the Devils while the Flyers opted to go with Michal Neuvirth, their backup. Steve Mason, Philly’s number one is winless against New Jersey, so the Flyers decided to go with the former Washington Capital for a change of pace. Cory made 21 saves on the night.
Travis Zajac was still out of the lineup for the Devils, with an upper body injury. The place the Devils missed him the most was in the faceoff circle, as they lost that battle 27-26. Zajac – a good faceoff man – gives them an edge in that department that usually results in things being a little less close, although basically splitting the faceoffs is not too bad considering they did not have Zajac’s services.
Eric Gelinas was also a healthy scratch for the Devils, not because of his recent play, the coaching staff said, but because they wanted to get the other defensemen cycled into the lineup to give them playing time.
One guy who was also getting some more playing time in this back-to-back was Stefan Matteau, who put the Devils on the board at 6:36 of the first when he intercepted a Philly dump-in attempt and took it to the other end of the rink, scoring at an odd angle. The goal came unassisted. The Devils were up 1-0 early on, but it would not last.
Andy Greene took a tripping call about three minutes later that led to Devil-killer Wayne Simmonds scoring on the ensuing power play. Simmonds always seems to get up for Devils-Flyers and he can be a thorn in the Devils’ side. His goal was reviewed, as the puck went in off his skate and there was question as to whether there was a distinct kicking motion. There was not and the call on the ice stood. The score was knotted at one.
The Devils again got into penalty trouble when Kyle Palmieri was called for hooking at 5:20 of the second period. The Devils seemed to have that under control when Andy Greene took a delay-of-game penalty when trying to clear the zone. He shot the puck over the glass and the Devils would be down 5-on-3. Late in the 5-on-3, Claude Giroux took a pass on the side of Schneider’s net from Jakub Voracek and hammered it home. It was now 2-1, Flyers.
The Devils had amped up the muscle in this game against the Flyers, inserting Bobby Farnham, Jordin Tootoo and Stefan Matteau into the lineup to give them some snarl. Farnham did have a scrap at 10:22 of the second when he fought the Flyers’ Scott Laughton.
Things settled down a bit after that until Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn was called for elbowing Damon Severson at 19:51. The Devils would go onto the power play and have the all-important fresh sheet of ice to work with in the third.
They would get the equalizer, although it came just after the penalty expired. Mike Cammalleri, who leads the NHL in multi-point games this season and notched another one tonight, found Patrik Elias, who quickly moved the puck to Palmieri at the side of the net. He fired it home and the game was tied at two at 1:55 into the third.
French-born Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would score for the Flyers at 9:30 to put Philly up 3-2. The Devils once again had to fight back to tie a game up late. They would get that goal when Bellemare went off on a tripping call against Jacob Josefson at 17:39. The Devils were going on the power play late, and when they got Cory Schneider off the ice to get a two-man advantage, Mike Cammalleri took a shot from a sharp angle, Tyler Kennedy jammed at the rebound, which was then corralled by Lee Stempniak and dropped to Cammlleri, who fired the puck past Neuvirth to tie the game with exactly one minute left in regulation. Time would then expire and the Devils were going to overtime, a time they have owned this year. New Jersey was 4-0 in overtime this season, while Philly was 4-4 going into tonight.
Unfortunately, the bottom fell out in OT. Philly pressed all during the extra session, including forcing Cammalleri to pass the puck back to Schneider to relieve pressure in the neutral zone, only for Cory to mishandle the puck, leading to a Flyers scoring chance. Philly also hit a post during the extra session.
The end came when Palmieri was knocked down hard in front of the Flyers net after taking a pass from Cammalleri and was slow to get up, setting up a 2-on-1 the other way. With Andy Greene back, Matt Read was able to go one-on-one with him and simply beat Cory Schneider with his shot. The Flyers won the game 4-3.
It was a tough loss for the Devils, but they did not play their best game and were still able to fight back and pull a point out of it, so all was not lost.
Next up for the Devils, the Florida Panthers and Jaromir Jagr (who leads them in scoring at age 43!) make their way to the Prudential Center. They are a team a lot like the Flyers, trying to scrape and claw their way back into the season after a disappointing start. The Devils welcome them in Sunday night. It will also be Jagr’s first trip to the Rock since being traded at last year’s trading deadline.